Photo credit: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador
Prompt: Cake Surprise: Tell the story of baking a birthday cake – which has a big surprise hidden inside.
The Best of Intentions
The Best of Intentions
By Stephen Hewitt
Lynn raced down the path toward her grandmother’s house, a butter-yellow biscuit box at the bottom of the meadow. Reaching high to unlatch the door, she slipped into the porch and kicked off her shoes, carelessly letting the storm door slam behind her.
“Shush!” came a voice from within. “Do you want to wake everybody up?”
Lynn peeked around the corner and saw her cousin, Leona, sitting cross-legged in front of the TV.
“Nan said I had to be quiet,” whispered Leona.
“Sorry,” said Lynn. “I’m just excited to see you!”
A smile crept across Leona’s face, prompting Lynn to tip-toe run at her and launch into a controlled hug-and-roll across the shag carpet. They giggled to a stop.
“You’re trouble,” said Leona.
They sat silently for a moment, sizing each other up. Leona was noticeably taller, but with their matching brown eyes and bowl cuts a stranger could easily mistake them for sisters.
“Where is everybody?” Lynn asked.
“Still in bed,” replied Leona. “Nan had a big party last night.”
Lynn eyed the row of birthday cards lining the top of the television. “I didn’t know it was her birthday,” she said. “We should get her present.”
“I don’t have any money,” said Leona. “Besides, it’s Sunday. The store’s not open.”
Lynn pondered for a moment before replying. “I know,” she said, “let’s make her a cake!”
The kitchen smelled of cigarettes, and the floor was sticky. Two decks of Bicycle playing cards sat next to an empty rum bottle on the table, and the counter was lined with beer bottles. Leona picked a lonely Cheesie out of a soup bowl and popped it into her mouth, then quickly spit it back out.
Lynn was head and shoulders into the bottom cupboard next to the fridge. Leona shushed her again as the clatter of pots and pans echoed through the house. Finally Lynn re-emerged holding a giant white mixing bowl.
“You could take a bath in that!” said Leona, her eyes as big as saucers.
Lynn rifled through the fridge and Leona the pantry, and together they started mixing whatever ingredients they could get their hands on. Flour, milk, salt, sugar. A dozen eggs, shells and all. A bottle of cooking oil. Ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, molasses. By the time they were done they had one big soupy mess that licked at the edges of the bowl as they stirred.
Unsure what to do next, they straddled opposite sides of the bowl, lifted it off the floor, and began to sidestep across the kitchen towards the oven. Bits of the mixture swished and slopped about, landing in wet splotches on the linoleum floor.
Unable to see where she was stepping, Lynn planted her bare foot on a greasy puddle and in a flash the bowl was airborne. It crashed down with a deafening bang and cake-batter-slop flooded across the kitchen.
From the top of the stairs their grandmother’s voice boomed. “What’s all the racket down there?”
Before Lynn and Leona had a chance to react, they heard their grandmother’s footsteps start to descend. They looked at each other with a sense of impending doom. They knew they were in trouble. There was no time to clean it up. No time to cover it up. They looked back down at the mess on the floor and followed the flow of batter across the room, to the bottom of the stairs, just in time to see their grandmother’s slippered foot take a final step onto the slippery linoleum.
She never stood a chance.
Like the bowl of cake batter, Nan too went airborne, landing with a thud on the hard kitchen floor.
The girls bolted from the house like two criminals on the lam, and didn’t stop until they reached the tall grass in the corner of the meadow. Cowering out of sight they watched Leona’s father make a brief appearance on the front step, scan left and right, and then retreat back into the house. All the while their grandmother’s mournful wails filled the air. It wasn’t until the ambulance arrived that they mustered the courage to come out of hiding, their cheeks still wet with tears as they watched the paramedics load Nan into the wagon.
She returned the next day with a bandage on her head and a hitch in her step, but otherwise no worse for wear. Half the family was on hand to greet her, but she shrugged off their concerns saying she was as sturdy as the house that she lived in.
Lynn and Leona anxiously kept their distance until Nanny Molly gently coaxed them to come forward and give her a hug.
“Come with me,” she said, as she hobbled her way into the kitchen.
She pointed to the cupboard and instructed Lynn to pull out the white mixing bowl. She sent Leona into the pantry for flour and a can of pineapple slices. Then butter, sugar, baking powder, vanilla extract were gathered and place on the kitchen table.
“Now children,” she said, “let me show you how to make Nan’s Upside Down Cake.”
Sunday Writers' Club member
Stephen Hewitt is a Vienna-based writer who leans heavily on his rural Canadian upbringing for inspiration and story ideas. During the day he pushes paper for The Man, but after hours he dabbles in Stoicism, participates in Roam Book Club, watches too much TV, and dreams of skating down the ice and scoring the game-winning goal.